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Wrestling takes hold on campus

wrestling
12/9/2010 —

 

SCOTT MORGAN REVIVES PROGRAM THAT WAS DORMANT FOR 35 YEARS

After a 35-year hiatus, wrestling returned in fall 2010 at Penn State New Kensington as an intercollegiate sport. Former Pennsylvania high school wrestling champion Scott Morgan was tapped to revive the program that was dormant since 1975.

"Scott's wrestling background and experience with building a program from scratch make him a good fit to head the campus wrestling revival," said Dave Murray, director of athletics.

An accomplished wrestler, Morgan was the 2004 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) champion. He was the captain and four-year starter at Norwin High School, and duplicated the double duty for the Mountain Cats at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnston where he earned his bachelor's degree in communications in 2009.

The new coach has assembled an eight-man team that currently fills seven of the ten collegiate weight classes. The roster includes Grayson Hixson, 133 pounds (Knoch High School); Mark Irwin, 141 (Carlynton); Steve Bickerstaff, 149 (Norwin); Mike Nader, 157 (Valley); Reyshahn Holliday, 157 (Penn Hills); Matt Kepple, 174 (Greensburg Salem); Craig Synan, 184 (Hampton); and Lou Gardone , 197 (Burrell). Two additional weight classes will be filled in January when Westmoreland County Community College transfer students Nolan Greenwald, 165, (Burrell) and Tyler Condron,184 (Burrell), join the squad for the spring semester.

"We have a young, but eager team who is ready to go," said Morgan, a native of Irwin "It's a matter now of filling the gaps and putting it all together.  The two new recruits should be a big help and fill two of those gaps."

The New Kensington Lions debuted Nov. 13 at the Washington and Jefferson College Open, a tournament that features individual wrestlers from colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Irwin, Knepple and Gardone won matches in their respective weight classes. Morgan is pleased with the team's progress as the individual efforts carried over to the duals matches. The team is 1-2 in head-to-head competition, defeating Penn State Dubois and falling to Ohio Valley University and Washington and Jefferson.

"Each individual on the team has had his moments so far," said Morgan, "So things are looking brighter in the future and we expect to record some wins as a team."

When he is not on the mat, Morgan is on the recruiting trail, looking to increase the roster, and generating awareness of the new sport. As the high school wrestling season gets under way, he will be a familiar face at most local matches and tournaments.

Morgan won't have to venture far for talented recruits, as the New Kensington campus sits in the heart of wrestling country in southwestern Pennsylvania. Local high schools Burrell and Kiski Area are the hot-bed of wrestling, and have a proven track-record as fertile ground for Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) wrestling champions, both team and individual.

"Overall, with this being our first season, we are looking to make our mark as a program," Morgan said. "I've dedicated a good portion of my life to the sport, and I appreciate the opportunity to teach what I have learned over the years. We want to grow the team, not only in numbers, but in performance as well and show everyone we're here to compete."

While campus teams compete in the Penn State University Athletic Conference of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, the wrestling team will align itself with the National Collegiate Wrestling Association. Wrestling is an emerging sport for the USCAA and only Penn State DuBois offers wrestling in the PSUAC. Home matches will be held in the Athletics Center, home of the basketball and volleyball teams.

Wrestling was a staple of the campus athletic program in the early 1970s. Under the direction of coach Bob Darby, the team competed in the Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference, the forerunner to the PSUAC. The program was disbanded in 1975. Darby retired in 2006 as athletic director and instructor in kinesiology at the campus.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WRESTLING TRAVELS TO MARYLAND
The team heads out-of-state Dec. 10 for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Duals in Catonsville, Md. The UMBC duals end the 2010 portion of the schedule. For full schedule, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/StudentLife/Athletics/36290.htm
 

ROSTER

Name Year Wt Class High School
Grayson Hixson  Fr 133 Knoch High School
Mark Irwin Fr 141 Carlynton
Steve Bickerstaff  Fr 149 Norwin
Mike Nader Fr 157 Valley
Reyshahn Holliday Fr 157 Penn Hills
Matt Kepple Fr 174 Greensburg Salem
Craig Synan Fr 184 Hampton
Lou Gardone  Fr 197 Burrell

Head Coach: Scott Morgan, smorgan103@gmail.com, 724-552-7124

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